I didn’t pay much attention to the original article, but this letter to Library Journal from Debbie A. Ramirez, Vincennes Univ., Jasper, IN, made me laugh out loud:
After reading Michael Kelley’s editorial on Melvil Dewey and weeding (“Don’t Judge a Book by Its Dust,” LJ 2/1/13, p. 8), I remembered my first library position of nearly 30 years ago. It was my first full-time librarian position, and, with diploma in hand, I was ready to be the best library media specialist the world had ever experienced. I was sure I could do it all. I joined every committee, judged and organized media fairs, and worked after school hours…. Even the classroom teachers loved me. Life was good.
Then, suddenly, I became the enemy. I didn’t know what had caused this drastic turn of events, so I decided to speak with the school principal. I told him just what I have written here, and without further discussion, he asked me to have a seat. Then he closed his office door, something he rarely did…. I was sure I was about to be fired. As I bravely held back the tears, he patted my hand, told me to relax, and spent a minute extolling me….
Before I could speak, he asked, “Have you started weeding the collection?” I had indeed been doing that. Was I not allowed to? I had learned how to perform this delicate operation in graduate school. I knew I was doing it as I had been taught, so what was wrong? My principal…said there were some things they didn’t teach you about weeding.
Here are his wise weeding instructions:
1. Do not ever tell anyone—except me—that you are getting rid of library books. Every book you weed out of the collection will be someone’s favorite. They just haven’t had time to read it in the past ten years or so.
2. Only weed books when no one else but me is in the building. Do not even trust the cleaning people; they might be informants.
3. Schedule your weeding time with me, and I will help you carry the books to my ex-brother-in-law’s pickup.
4. We will probably do our weeding after dark, so park your car down the street so that no one knows you are here. Dress in all-black clothing. Meet me in the back of the school by the sycamore tree.
5. Bring a good flashlight. We don’t want to turn on the library lights; that might arouse suspicion.
6. I will have had a large pit dug in the next county where we will bury the weeded books.
7. When the weeding is done and someone asks for a book you have just weeded…look them in the eye and tell them that someone was seen here with a flashlight, loading books into an old pickup. They were last seen heading south.
Best advice I ever received!
Even in my short years working in Libraries, I rememebr having a discussion with a University Lecturer on this topic. We had some old books we were discarding and a colleague thought the lecturer might like them as they might be of interest (they were about nursing published in the 60s or 70’s if I recall correctly) and the lecturer came in to have a look and advised that we keep them in case the students were interested.
A bit later on, when I was having my lunch in the shared staff room she was telling a colleague about how when she first started out lecturing at a different university she had helped the library weed out some old books and had always regretted it as they might be of historical interest in the future – I had to defend the library’s decision to get rid of books that were out of date to make space for new ones! I think this is especially true of Health Libraries who are trying to support current Evidence Based Practice and University Libraries who are trying to teach students to use up to date references.